I said it a little while ago, but it bears repeating: being a writer right now is both weird and worrisome.
And in the short time since I wrote that other thing, it’s only gotten weirder and more worrisome. Consider:
Jane Friedman finding AI spoofers stealing her name and selling garbage content with it on Amazon, which Amazon initially wouldn’t take down until the bad publicity washed up on their shore?
Simon & Schuster sold to investment firm KKR for $1.62 billion, the same firm that also bought Toys R’ Us, a place that is definitely still around ha haha haa haahaha *nervous laughter*? (A note here that the KKR acquisition might be the best case scenario, and the fact that there is some employee ownership going into the deal seems like a good thing, and ultimately this is certainly better than PRH having scooped them up so that they get turned into a Kaiju MegaConglomerate, stomping over everything.)
Whatever that Prosecraft thing was? (I cannot speak to the legality of what that guy was up to, and I’m going to guess that his assertions of it being “AI” were more marketing than anything, but it doesn’t change the fact that he somehow had 27,000 books — many new, which were as-yet-inaccessible digitally — that he was using to create a site whose usefulness was definitely in the toilet, given that it made absolutely dubious assertions about passive voice, vivid prose, emotional beats, and the like. Storytelling isn’t math and we can’t wish it into becoming that way. Also, the English language is total chaos. It’s a flock of birds drunk on berries flying into an airplane turbine. Good luck divining narrative truth from the spray of blood and feathers, everyone.)
The AV Club using AI to put together their articles, but then also writing articles like, “Even The Merovingian from the Matrix movies doesn’t trust AI,” where you can find this sentence: “If a guy who played an evil computer program is warning us about the potential evil uses of a computer program, let’s listen to him!” Which sounds a whole lot like, “AI is really bad, except when we use it!”
We’re finding AI-generated imagery in weird places (D&D! Book covers! Your spouse! That’s right, your spouse was generated by artificial intelligence and that’s why they have seven fingers on their left hand! You fool!), we’re watching new social media sites pop up and fall down faster than coked-up gophers, the book banning has continued until morale has improved (it has not), Amazon has screwed up its subscription services so much that some SFF fiction magazines had to close shop, we’re seeing AI language pop up in boilerplate contracts that need to be cut down by diligent agents, and all around us the costs of living are going up up up while advances are staying the same or are going down and nobody knows what the fuck is going on anymore.
I mean, it’s not all bad, I get that. The economy hasn’t crashed (uhh, yet, anyway). The industry seems to me somewhat up (excepting YA and other children’s sales). I know some new bookstores that have opened. B&N, though they’re taking a bite out of hardcover sales, seem to be opening new stores at a better clip than before. And there are, of course, still really great books coming out (yesterday alone brought us scarily-awesome new work by Alma Katsu, Lauren Beukes, Daniel Kraus, Catriona Ward, Kiersten White, plus the exceptional horror guide by Sadie Hartmann, 101 Horror Books To Read Before You’re Murdered). But we’re still in a place where it’s getting harder to reach our audiences while at the same time we’re trying to swat away the flying goblins of so-called “artificial intelligence” and culture war book-ban bullshit, and if we complain about it some fuckface online will call us an “idea landlord” as if we’re the ones who built the system that is currently falling on our heads.
So, if we seem tired? If we seem like we’re a broken tooth with a squirming nerve poking out of it? If we look like we just crawled out of a sweaty bed after a night of no-sleep? Yeah, that’s all of this. We’re tired. We’re wired. We’re feeling weary and weird. We just want to write our little books and stories and articles and hope you read them. FILL OUR GRUEL BOWL WITH YOUR ATTENTION, PLEASE.
And here I would be remiss if I did not remind you: I have Wayward coming out in paperback at the end of this month, and on 9/26, the harvest of evil apples arrives and the cult of Black River Orchard rises. So if you’re so inclined to seek them out and pre-order, I’d sure love you forever. Or at least until the next book release, when I’ll show up at our door again, looking like a feral Scottish terrier. If you need a good place to preorder the books — and get them signed and personalized! — you should look to my local Doylestown Bookshop, for both Wayward and for Black River Orchard. I will be doing a tour for Black River Orchard, as well (with bonus apple tastings!). Dates firming up soon, but my expectation is, I’m going to do a big ol’ happy loop of New England, and then also some other dates, potentially in the West / Northwest. More when I know it!